Leadership skills are critical for those of us who are passionate about achieving our vision of success. There is now a clear distinction between the scope and effectiveness of management skills versus leadership skills. Instead of merely monitoring a project, a group, a process, we want to optimize results by creating and clearly communicating a vision for success that transfers to others and infuses them with the inspiration to achieve great things.
Well, how is that essence of leadership established?
Mike Figliuolo is the Managing Director of thoughtLeaders, LLC and he suggests that you establish your personal leadership maxims. So what exactly are "Leadership Maxims"? They are a set of guidelines that helps to define who you are as a leader in four critical areas:
- How to lead yourself (inspire, motivate, self-direct)
- How to lead the thinking (vision, innovation)
- How to lead your people (know them, inspire them, grow them)
- How to lead a balanced life (boundaries, perspective)
After considering this four point list you want to articulate your maxims in a simple and accessible manner (on one piece of paper).
The benefits of articulating your maxims are:
- Focusing on your leadership strengths (where you'll achieve a greater return for your efforts)
- Setting expectations for yourself reduces confusion and creates alignment in your life
- They help you remember what's important and focus on that
- They serve as a coaching tool for you (so that you can be coached by others on living up to your maxims)
Sources for establishing these maxims can come from painful personal experiences, powerful stories you've heard, sayings from teachers or family as well as memorable scenes from books and movies. What is critical is that you personally identify with the maxim, the experience, so that it resonates with you and becomes a part of your process. Maxims will change over time as you change as a leader, so expect new lessons and examples to replace your currently established set when you grow.
To see Mike Figliuolo's Webex presentation on Establishing Leadership Maxims, click here. Follow thoughtLeaders on Twitter.
The 4-Hour Workweek really comes down to one thing: successful use of Pareto's Principle.
Roughly one third of Tim Ferriss' book reads like an infomercial but one can see example after example of how applying Pareto's Principle to everything we do in our work and personal lives gives us the opportunity to maximize our return on effort.
In the interest of being brief, here is my distillation of the key points raised in The 4-Hour Workweek:
- The concept of eustress, or good stress. This is something I can relate to as I thrive on a certain degree of urgency in my work life. I've never been a fan of clerical work and I think that is partially due to it's wholly unexciting nature.
- Do you want to be a millionaire or do you want to have the options you believe a millionaire has in terms of freedom of choice?
- Don't underestimate yourself and overestimate the competition.
- Parkinson's Law- a task will swell in perceived importance and complexity in the time allotted for it's completion.
- 3 times per day ask yourself two questions: Am I being productive or just active? Am I inventing things to do to avoid the important?
- You have to be prepared to deal with an uncomfortable emotional reaction as you consider difficult choices and resolutions.
- If you are the average of the 5 people you interact with most, then who are you?
- People are smarter than you think. Give them a chance to prove themselves.
- Using a Virtual Assistant to take care of research and personal chores could be a great boost to personal productivity.
- MBA= Management by Absence
- "Process Driven" rather than "person driven" allows others to make things happen without delays caused by you (acting as a bottleneck)
- Make non-fatal or reversible decisions as quickly as possible. Fast decisions preserve usable attention for what matters.
- Regret is past tense decision making. Eliminate complaining to minimize regret.
Some other useful things you'll find in this book are various websites and services which are listed in each chapter with reviews, helpful hints and potential pitfalls, so that you can make immediate use of the strategies you're exploring.
If you are a person dedicated to getting things done I'm not sure that The 4-Hour Workweek holds an abundance of wisdom for you since you likely already employ many of the concepts in the book. One of the major weaknesses of the 4-Hour sales pitch is the assumption that everyone detests their job but lacks the creativity or desire to do something about it. The concepts and habits that Mr. Ferriss asks you to adopt would be quite unmanageable for most people, in my opinion, because they are too aggressive and emotionally uncomfortable.
A few weeks ago I attended a local Chamber of Commerce meeting and one of the attendees joked that she had received a copy of 4-Hour Workweek several years ago as a gift, had read a few chapters, and the book still sits half-read on her nightstand. During this time she has grown her educational services business from a one person operation to dozens of employees, with recent state accreditation. She enjoys what she is doing and has no need for the deceptive escapism that is often part of the 4-Hour plan.
The 4-Hour Workweek has plenty of interesting things to say but I would advise you to figure out what it is you love to do (Eustress), and go do that. The rest should follow.
Just before my first management assignment, in between the time when I was offered the job and I needed to report, I was all smiles. I had happened upon the opportunity most accidentally. I wasn't even looking for a management job but simply looking to survive the summer in the sometimes roller coaster world of seasonal employment. Upon learning there was an open position at a local restaurant I remember thinking "I can surely do that!" I had been lucky enough to experience the leadership of several enlightened bosses among the many dreadful managers since I had started delivering The Buffalo News at age 12 on a local paper route. I was eager to model the effectiveness of those enlightened role models and to prove to myself that I would be better than the majority of moody, confused and short-tempered souls elevated to management I had observed for far too long in my working life.
Reality sometimes hit hard, even though I was protected by a hearty shied of youthful exuberance, optimism, and of course, ignorance. Within hours of being charged with opening a restaurant that had been shuttered for eight months I realized I had waded farther from the shore than I was accustomed and suddenly had to contend with currents and winds and (gulp), a lack of orientation in a leadership role I had assumed would come rather naturally to me. Everyone needed something from me right away, and moment after moment after moment in an endless stream of questions, I suddenly realized I might not have all the answers.
I survived the opening, and training new and inexperienced employees, and massive crowds of customers desperate for a meal after enduring shuttle rides and bus transfers to see Alaska's famed interior backcountry. What I learned in those first few weeks has stuck with me years later as I reflect on my current goals to become a more effective manager and leader. Technique, used in conjunction with your natural talent, allows you to tackle problems quickly, elevate employees to great performances and allows that monkey on your back to give the occasional massage.
One of the best features of Erika Andersen's book- Growing Great Employees is that worksheets are included as part of each chapter so you can practice mapping out your questions, techniques and knowledge. The best feature of course is the sage advice and easily written action plans for all your management woes. Listening skills, selecting for core competencies while hiring, the Social Style Model, and a coaching toolkit are all laid out in this book, allowing you to pick and choose topics depending on where you need immediate help.
Becoming aware of the techniques needed to fulfill your responsibilities as a manager allows you to perform better, and therefor to lead your employees more effectively. Knowing that I can now analyze a situation and respond appropriately, with great effectiveness...wow, I love it!
This book was everything I'd hoped it would be. Yearning for a tale of rebel managers forging a trail of legendary achievements through the jungles of the everyday workplace I was treated to the secrets of the world's best managers and the techniques and attitudes that brought them success. Not too sound too dramatic here, but the discoveries I made reading this book encouraged me by lighting a path I felt I could follow with eagerness....and positive results. Compiled and analyzed data from the Gallup Organization highlights the key elements that measure a great manager against a good one.
Where to begin? So chock full of goodness that my notebook is bursting with hastily scribbled themes, ideas and checklists it's obvious I'll need to reflect on what I've read several times for it all to sink in and be put to good use. Something wonderful about First, Break All The Rules is that much of the information conveyed is easily applicable. You could say there is an instant trick list embedded in the sage advice presented in each page which will immediately allow you to begin an improvement in your applied behavior. Of course following the theme of the title the first chapter informs me that the best managers do everything good managers aren't supposed to do. They play favorites, they treat people differently based on personality and talent level and they certainly don't make the mistake of assuming that everyone has unlimited potential.
Yes great managers are also the reason that some companies achieve great success, great profit and have great public reputations. "Managers Trump Companies". That is, your employees have a relationship with their direct supervisor which dictates not only their satisfaction and tenure at a company but their overall performance as well. Without this important relationship with a great manager, even given identical tools and training to another unit within your company, your employees lacking a great manager aren't going to show you the performance you could see from them. Great managers also naturally select against employees who are just there for the salary and benefits, cruising through their days and waiting for retirement, or 5pm. All of this is acheived through an interactive relationship between employee and manager based on goals, performance, discussion and optimizing talent.
Talent it turns out, is not precisely what I thought it was. According to Buckingham and Coffman's research talent can be defined as "a recurring pattern of thought, feeling or behavior that can be productively applied". It hadn't occurred to me that great housekeepers have a "talent" for being able to clean rooms consistently, day in and day out, while feeling energized by their results. I had thought that the best housekeepers were just more or less consistent, and 'hardworking'. If they had much sense they would consider taking on additional responsibility to lead their team in a supervisory role. After all, why bust your hump like that everyday? I no longer have this opinion.
It was a mistake for me to think, as I believe many achievement oriented people do, that my value is proportional to my potential for advancement and career growth. Taking the example from Buckingham and Coffman I have to confess I now have a better feel for strengths based roles and how much sense they make in helping people achieve their best performance. My specific talents are what are going to determine where I best fit within an organization. If I am lucky enough to be part of an organization that creates a path of least resistance between my talent and the satisfaction of the client, then we will all be happy winners. Further, when I apply these same ideas to my direct reports, then I'll multiply that effect.
Buckingham and Coffman seperate talent into three categories: Striving, Thinking and Relating. You can't teach talent, it's either present within a person or it's not. Talent should not be confused with skills and knowledge, both of which can be taught and improved through study and repetition. Talent is a unique dividing line that separates people into those that can do and can't do, depending on the area of talent needed to excel in a particular situation. Great managers spend the most time with their best talent because they know that the amplification of that attention to the most talented performers will pay much bigger dividends than constant attention to low talent employees. In cases where you have low or limited talent you need to look at what can be done to maximize what talent is there, and obscure or minimize the results in the areas of low performance. This could be done by pairing employees who have complimentary talent sets and casting them in the correct roles once they have been assessed. The best managers always look to maximize what talent is available and never assume that someone can be 'fixed'.
Keep in mind that none of the insights imparted in First, Break All The Rules are easy fix-alls. Many of the strategies and practices written there will require a great deal of effort by the good (aspiring to be Great) manager AND the daunting possibility that company culture may stifle the application of these efforts. The good news is that when you are armed with the knowledge and confidence that comes with understanding what yields the best results you can begin to deconstruct what is happening around you, then act toward your goals in a more effective manner as much as the environment allows. I would highly recommend that you read this book!